Chechens claim Russian casualties

The leader of anti-Moscow rebels in Chechnya says up to 98 pro-Russian soldiers have died at the hands of separatists in the seven days beginning 30 October.

    A Chechen official says Russian weaponry was also damaged

    In a statement, Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov said at least one Russian soldier had been captured and 103 others wounded in separatist attacks.

    Two Russian military helicopters and five lorries had also been damaged.

    The statement, published on the pro-Chechen website Chechenpress.com, said some of the attacks were carried out in the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. 

    The announcement came a day after Russian media reported military sources saying a fighter linked to the assassination of Chechnya's pro-Moscow president, Ahmad Kadyrov, was among a number of separatists killed in a recent firefight. 

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the killed leader's son, said special troops had infiltrated a separatist base in Chechnya's turbulent Vedensky region and killed 22 fighters in a brief gun battle.

    Kadyrov said one of the dead was a member of the group under Shamil Basayev's command that carried out the attack on his father in May.

    TV footage

    Russia's NTV channel showed pictures of scorched bodies, some clad in camouflage gear and some still clinging to their AK-47s, piled in front of a brick building, with Russian soldiers silently picking through them.

    Aslan Maskhadov says up to 103
    Russian soldiers have been hurt

    Separatists have fought for a decade to win independence for their largely Muslim Caucasus homeland and push out Russian forces.

    Maskhadov also said Chechen refugees in neighbouring states continued to be persecuted by Russian forces. 

    Citing a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Maskhadov said Russian authorities were accused of forcing refugees to return home, threatening them with eviction and the cessation of humanitarian aid. Up to 43,000 Chechen refugees remain in Ingushetia.

    The NRC has said it is impossible to compel the internally displaced people (IDP) to return to the crisis territory where they could not be provided with the elementary housing conditions.

    "Security checks in IDP settlements, eviction threats, the removal from humanitarian distribution lists and the suspension of utilities (gas or electricity) in IDP settlements, contributed to spreading the feeling among IDPs that return was the only solution," said the NRC report.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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